Microsoft eyes healthcare AI supremacy with Nuance deal closure

Healthcare may be one step closer to artificial intelligence (AI)-powered disruption after Friday saw Microsoft complete its acquisition of Nuance Communications.

The $19.7bn mega-deal sees Microsoft extending its healthcare portfolio through Nuance’s enterprise AI tools that transcribe doctors’ notes, along with customer service calls and voicemails. Nuance, a UK based speech-recognition company, is perhaps best known for having provided the speech recognition engine that powers Apple’s smart assistant Siri.

The acquisition met a few stumbling blocks on its road to completion, with the launch in December of an anti-trust investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Later in the month saw the European Commission (EC) approve the deal, with CMA following suit last Wednesday.

On announcing completion on Friday, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Cloud + AI Group, Microsoft said: “Completion of this significant and strategic acquisition brings together Nuance’s best-in-class conversational AI and ambient intelligence with Microsoft’s secure and trusted industry cloud offerings.”

“This powerful combination will help providers offer more affordable, effective and accessible healthcare, and help organizations in every industry create more personalized and meaningful customer experiences. I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome the Nuance team to our Microsoft family.”

Mark Benjamin, CEO of Nuance, added: “Combining the power of Nuance’s deep vertical expertise and proven business outcomes across healthcare, financial services, retail, telecommunications and other industries with Microsoft’s global cloud ecosystems will enable us to accelerate our innovation and deploy our solutions more quickly, more seamlessly and at greater scale to solve our customers’ most pressing challenges.”

“As Microsoft and Nuance come together as one organization, we are excited about the opportunities ahead for our technology, employees, customers and partners.”

Benjamin will remain CEO of Nuance and report to Guthrie at Microsoft.